There are a number of cucumbers that are an heirloom variety. Some of them include Armenian, Boston Pickling Improved, Homemade Pickles, Muncher, Miniature White, and Straight Eight. Heirloom cucumbers will save you money also. By saving several of the ripened fruits, you can remove the seeds, wash the seeds to remove the pulp, store them and then plant them in next year’s garden. They will always be just like the parent plant. If you want a successful cucumber garden, you will need to give them special care if they are to grow and produce an abundant crop. Most cucumbers are dark green in color and are hardy to grow in gardens in USDA zones 3 through 9. They are grown as an annual and depending on the variety chosen, they can take about 50 days or longer for the fruit to mature. If you take care of the cucumber plants, they will reward you with countess cucumbers. You can use these fruits are used in canning, freezing, salads, and pickle recipes.
Examine the garden site where you want to plant the cucumbers. Cucumbers need the exposure of the full sun in order to produce fruit. When you pick out a garden spot, do not plant the cucumbers beside tomatoes or sage. These plants do not get along and they will not grow well together.
Prepare the Garden Site
If you have a small garden, choose one of the smaller bush type cucumbers. Some heirloom cucumber vines will grow to three feet in length, but they will still produce a heavy crop of cucumbers. If you grow the larger type cucumbers, install a trellis or a fence behind them. It will save on space in your garden, make it easier to harvest the cucumbers and keep the fruit cleaner also. Work up the soil with a tiller or you can use a garden fork. Amend the soil with compost and some manure. Remove any rocks and sticks. Level the soil with the back of your rake.
Sow the Seeds
Sow one to two heirloom cucumber seeds every 8 to 12 inches in the row. I always hate to plant two seeds at a time in the same hole, because it bothers me to pull out a growing vegetable, or flower plant. Yes, I know it is the right thing to do, but it still hurts. The seeds should be inserted into the soil to a depth of a 1/2 inch. Push the soil over the seeds to cover and gently firm the soil in place. Leave 4 to 5 feet between rows. Water the soil to keep it moist. Usually heirloom cucumbers need to be watered once a day, unless you have had ample rain in your area. Don’t water the soil so much that it stays soggy or the seeds will rot. It can take 8 to 10 days for the seeds to germinate.
Watering the Cucumbers
The best time to water your cucumber garden is early in the morning so the moisture won’t evaporate as fast. Water the soil deeply each time you water. If your area is having a hot or if the wind is blowing, you may need to water twice a day. Water the heirloom cucumbers at ground level and avoid overhead watering. If you must use a sprayer nozzle, avoid getting the leaves wet, otherwise you are inviting disease. In order for the cucumbers to set on, the soil needs to be kept moist. It is important to not allow the soil to dry out or the cucumbers will have a bitter taste.
Mulch the Ground
Cover the ground with 3 to 4 inches of organic mulch. This helps keep the ground moist and weed free. This means less work for you. Organic mulch breaks down into the soil and adds to the nutrient level. When the cucumber plants start to flower, apply a side-dressing of nitrogen fertilizer. In another three weeks, apply a second application. Do not give the cucumber plants too much fertilizer. You will have great looking vines with many leaves, but you won’t have any cucumbers. Read and follow manufacturer’s directions on application amounts.
As the vines grow, train them to grow on a trellis or fence. You can use a soft twine to tie the vines to the fence to help the . Don’t make the twine too tight or it may break the vines. It helps save garden space and keeps the fruit cleaner.
As the season progresses, inspect the plants for insects. Always check the underside of the leaves because this is where you’ll find bugs like aphids or the cucumber beetles. Sprinkle the plants with dusting insecticidal powder, like Rotenone. As an alternative solution, spray the cucumber vines with an insecticidal spray or soap. Always check the label for one that is safe to use on food crops.
Any cucumber plants that wilts from a bacterial infection, pull the infected plant immediately and throw it away in the trash. Do not use it in your compost pile because you will be transferring the bacterial infection to other plants when you use the compost.
Harvest the cucumbers when they are ripe. This keeps the vines producing through the season.
USA Gardener: How to Grow Cucumbers
Ohio State University: Growing Cucumbers in the Home
Hertzler Farm and Feed Inc.: Cucumber
Heirloom Seeds: Cucumbers
How to Grow More Vegetables; John Jeavons
Jerry Baker’s Old-Time Gardening Wisdom; Jerry Baker